National Novel Writing Month: Why Am I Doing This Again?

It's nearly midnight and I'm sitting in an IHOP, you know, like you do. Somewhere in the dark of the East Valley night, trick-or-treaters are counting up their confectionery haul. Me, I'm sipping stale coffee with a room full of would-be famous, published writers gearing up for the start of National Novel Writing Month.

Phoenix New Times Night and Day Editor Steve Jansen already mentioned NaNoWriMo (for short), but for the uninitiated, it goes like this: An insane person goes to the NaNoWrioMo website and agrees to string together 50,000 words between midnight on November 1 and November 30. Thirty days. Fifty thousand words. That's roughly 1,666 words per day.

Why do it? Certainly not for fame or prizes -- there are none. Nope, the idea is to get you off your duff and putting pen to paper to finish that novel you've been thinking about writing since second grade.

So far it's been quite the experience in caffeine addiction.

Come to find out, the challenge of NaNoWriMo isn't the word count (though that is formidable) so much as making sacrifices to find time to write and getting used to the idea that most of what you spew out is going to be crap. "Nano" is not about editing. It's about writing. One Nano rep actually suggested we participants consider December National Novel Editing Month so we won't worry about it in our quests for 50,000.

While the whole experience has thus far alienated me from my friends and loved ones (at least the ones who aren't writing as well). It has also spiced up my e-mail inbox. Why just the other day I received a mass e-mail from Mercedes Lackey chock full of writing advice.

"I can't think of anything more intimidating than a blank page," says Lackey. (I'm willing to believe her, but it's difficult when I know she's written 80 books.) Her advice for getting over the fear of getting started: "This is where I am going to deviate from practically anyone you have ever heard from, and tell you this: try writing fanfiction."

Who knows. Maybe by the end of this little exercise I'll be burned out, drooling and stringing together graphs about video game characters. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

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Jonathan McNamara